Author: Jim Riley Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012
This type of structure combines the traditional departments seen in functional structures with project teams. In a matrix structure, individuals work across teams and projects as well as within their own department or function.
For example, a project or task team established to develop a new product might include engineers and design specialists as well as those with marketing, financial, personnel and production skills.
These teams can be temporary or permanent depending on the tasks they are asked to complete. Each team member can find himself/herself with two managers - their normal functional manager as well as the team leader of the project.
Matrix structures have advantages and disadvantages.
Can help to break down traditional department barriers, improving communication across the entire organisation
Can allow individuals to use particular skills within a variety of contexts
Avoid the need for several departments to meet regularly, so reducing costs and improving coordination
Likely to result in greater motivation amongst the team members
Encourages cross-fertilisation of ideas across departments – e.g. helping to share good practice and ideas
A good way of sharing resources across departments – which can make a project more cost-effective
Members of project teams may have divided loyalties as they report to two line managers. Equally, this scenario can put project team members under a heavy pressure of work.
There may not be a clear line of accountability for project teams given the complex nature of matrix structures.
Difficult to co-ordinate
It takes time for matrix team members to get used to working in this kind of structure
Team members may neglect their functional responsibilities
It is important to remember that a matrix structure often sites alongside a traditional functional structure – it is not necessarily a replacement.